Sewanee celebrated Founders’ Day Oct. 11 with the traditional Convocation and awarding of three honorary degrees, the induction of 271 new members into the Order of Gownsmen, and an address by Justice Robert L. Brown, C’63. Members of Sewanee’s Board of Trustees were honored guests at the Convocation.
Academic awards and prizes were announced by Provost John Swallow (see the list here), along with two named professorships: Professor William E. Engel was named the Nick B. Williams Professor of English, and Professor Randolph Peterson was named the Tom Costen Professor of Physics.
The University conferred honorary degrees upon three people whose life work will have substantial and lasting effects. Henry Louis Gates Jr., the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University, received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters; the Rev. Becca Stevens, C’85, (above) Episcopal chaplain at Vanderbilt University and founder of Magdalene and Thistle Farms, received an honorary Doctor of Divinity; and Robert L. Brown, C’63, former associate justice on the Arkansas Supreme Court, received an honorary Doctor of Civil Law. Read more about Gates, Stevens and Brown here.
In his address, Brown (left) reflected on the resources he drew upon when called to make decisions, and what prepared him for the role of justice on the Arkansas Supreme Court. “Sewanee set me on the right course,” he said, noting that it was here that he developed intellectual curiosity and a sense of justice, and learned to distinguish between mere appearance and what is true.
Brown shared memories of his initial arrival at Sewanee, the joy of discovering the Domain, and his college friends—including Ted Stirling, well before Stirling became an iconic professor with a namesake coffee house on campus. He encouraged the students in attendance to consider careers in public service, saying difficult times like the present are precisely when the talents and vision of young people are most needed. The former justice concluded by calling Sewanee “a rock we can tie to.”
Henry Louis Gates Jr.
Following the address, Daniel Williams, president of the Order of Gownsmen, announced the names of 271 new members—241 undergraduates and 30 from The School of Theology—as each stood to be recognized before receiving his or her gown. Because Founders’ Day was celebrated at the beginning of Family Weekend, many parents were in attendance to celebrate the achievement.
The Convocation concluded with the singing of the Alma Mater and the university hymn before students, families, trustees and faculty spilled out into the afternoon sunshine.
See photos from the day here.